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IOM Opens Eyes On Medical Errors; Support Promised

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will convene the first national conference of state health officials in March, with the intention of defining ways to combat medical and medication errors. The summit grew out of the Institute of Medicine's report that recommended systematic changes to reduce such errors.

IOM says between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths in hospitals each year are attributable to medical errors, while another 7,000 people die because of medication errors. The problem, researchers noted, is in the way health-delivery systems are organized; they cite such obstacles as multiple practitioners treating patients without their complete prescription records, hospitals stocking patient-care units with full-strength drugs that must be diluted for use, and illegible handwriting on prescriptions. Medical errors cost almost $9 billion a year.

The institute recommended that AHRQ establish a National Center for Patient Safety to set safety goals and track progress. It also called for a national mandatory system of reporting medical errors.

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